US bid to end Ulster logjam

PRESIDENT BILL Clinton will use meetings next week with David Trimble and Gerry Adams to try to break the deadlock on peace in Northern Ireland. Though he is unlikely to press the leader of Sinn Fein on arms decommissioning, the President will insist that the "spirit", as well as the letter of the Good Friday accord must be respected.

That means a commitment from Sinn Fein that decommissioning will take place.

Mr Trimble has insisted a timetable for disarmament is already implicit in the accord, and that action is necessary before Sinn Fein can join the new government for Northern Ireland.

Mr Clinton will try to convince him to accept a statement from Sinn Fein in good faith.

Under the accord, decommissioning must be completed within two years from the date of the agreement. There is no deadline for when it must start. But it also says that any party which does not show its commitment to peaceful means and to using all its influence to achieve disarmament can be excluded. A system for decommissioning has been in place since last year.

The British Government says it cannot resolve the dispute, which is a matter for Mr Trimble, Mr Adams and the other parties. The British and Irish governments have made 2 April, Good Friday, the deadline for solving the argument.

Sinn Fein is remaining defiant before the Clinton meeting. "What they're looking for is for the IRA to surrender," said Mr Adams in Houston. "Unfortunately, that isn't within anybody's gift to deliver, because the IRA wasn't defeated."

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